Out This Week: Snowpiercer, Sex Tape, The Purge, Pee-wee Herman, & More!

Snowpiercer

This is one of those week’s where there is something for just about everyone. We’ve got hits, duds, TV-on-DVD, cult classics, and much more. Here’s the breakdown:

Snowpiercer

One of the year’s best movies should shave been a summer blockbuster, but instead the studios chose to make it some kind of arthouse limited release. I can’t understand why. Snowpiercer is absolutely brilliant. Chris Evans plays a man leading a revolt on a train; a train that holds all of humanity after earth has frozen over. Dark, moving, exciting, visceral, at times brutal, Snowpiercer is a big budget thriller/sci-fi actioner that has a message and a heart. How do you let a movie like this come out with no marketing behind it? This is one of the must-see films of the year!

PurgeAnarchyThe Purge: Anarchy

The first The Purge was a great concept but a poorly executed movie, wasting a neat sci-fi premise on what turned into a standard home invasion thriller. The Purge: Anarchy fixes that problem by taking the action out into the world and, in turn, delivers an exciting action thriller that I really enjoyed. Superstar character actor Frank Grillo turns in a performance that could just as easily be an audition for him taking the lead role in a Punisher movie, and the film manages to not pull any punches while also not turning into a brutal, over-the-top mess. It also sets up some interesting elements for future films. I hope they continue the series and they do so along these lines.

SexTapeSex Tape

Funny concept, great trailer, so what went wrong? Sex Tape is a dud of a romantic comedy, largely because it’s neither romantic nor particularly funny. Instead of relying on charm or clever writing, it just goes for lowest common denominator humor and lots and lots of swearing. Because swearing = funny, right? And I’ve never liked Cameron Diaz, so her presence in the film certainly doesn’t add anything to it. To be honest, the first half of the film is kind of painfully awkward, watching two people either having sex, talking about sex, or trying to have sex. None of it is sexy or funny, though, so it kind of feels like you’re just eavesdropping on people. What a waste.

 

 

LifeAfterBethLife After Beth

Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan star in this zombie comedy, in which Beth comes back to life as a zombie and then tries to fit back into her regular life. It’s a quirky comedy, and John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon along as Beth’s parents make it a fun ride. Add in Anna Kendrick, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, and Matthew Gray Gubler, and this is one of those movies that’s very enjoyable from start to finish.

PeeWeePlayhousePee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series

Okay, I never liked Pee-wee Herman, nor did I ever really like his show. However, I’m in the minority on that, and I realize that most people will be very excited to see this new collection. And they should be. This is a real treasure for fans of the show. Available on Blu-ray, this set collects every single episode of the show — 45 in total, plus the Christmas episode. In addition to that, there are a whopping FOUR hours of new extra features. If you have fond memories of Lurence Fishburne Jr. as a cowboy, a talking chair, and a little man in a too-small suit, then this set will bring a huge smile to your face.

VincentPrice2The Vincent Price Collection II

Shout Factory’s terrific Scream Factor imprint goes back to the classic well for this release, which collects six of Price’s greatest horror films: House on Haunted Hill, The Return of the Fly, The Comedy of Terrors, The Raven, The Last Man on Earth, Tomb of Ligeia & Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Honestly, I think this might even be a better collection of films than the first set had. Each film has been restored and remastered, too, which means the picture and sound quality for each film is very good, but of course, you have to keep in mind the ages of the films. The soundtracks aren’t aurally-dazzling affairs, but the films sound clear and natural, with no tinny sound or hollowness.On top of that, each film is packed with bonus features, making this a must-have collection for fans of Vincent Price or classic horror films in general.

TheSquadThe Squad

This Colombian horror film is a slow-burning thriller that picks up steam as it goes. When a squad of soldiers takes an enemy’s compound, they find it deserted except for a single woman. And, of course, bad things start to happen from there. It’s an intense film that horror fans should enjoy even if it doesn’t break any new ground.

ScribblerThe Scribbler

Katie Cassidy. Eliza Dushku. Garret Dillahunt. Michael Imperioli. Michelle Trachtenberg. Billy Campbell. Sasha Gray. Gina Gershon. This film is like a genre TV lover’s dream. SO how do you get that many talented people in one place and turn out a film that’s such a mess? I don’t know, but The Scribbler managed it. I  never thought that Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch was the kind of movie that would inspire other filmmakers, but this movie feels like it takes all of its visual and story clues from that movie. Katie Cassidy’s performance is terrific, and most of the rest of the cast is good, too, but the film itself is largely incomprehensible.

Downton1to4Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2, 3, & 4

This gorgeous collection features all four seasons of the smash hit Downton Abbey. I don’t care what kind of television you think you like, if you haven’t watched Downton Abbey, you are missing out on some of the best TV around. Period. All that critical buzz and internet chatter you’ve been hearing about the show? It’s all DEAD ON. This show is magnificent, dramatic, funny, heartfelt, moving, well-acted, and utterly fantastic in every single way. Downton Abbey looks gorgeous on Blu-ray. The transfer manages to capture everything in all it’s real-world splendor, from the crumbling city streets of the town around Downton to the splendor of the upper crust manor house. Meanwhile, the surround soundtrack doesn’t have a lot to work with, but it does its job to the best of its ability. Seriously, I don’t know what else I can say to convince people to watch this show. It’s TV at its finest.

RedSkeltonEarlyThe Red Skelton Show: The Early Years – 1951 – 1955

I expect most of today’s younger audiences have no idea who Red Skelton is. And I understand that; I mean, his heyday was about 60 years ago. However, this set is a great way to introduce people to his comedic talent. I grew up knowing about Red Skelton because my dad was a fan, so I always knew who he was and enjoyed him. Now this new box set collects a whopping 90 episodes of classic comedy with tons of great guest stars. In addition to thebeloved recurring characters like Clem Kadiddlehopper, San Fernando Red and Freddie the Freeloader, the set also features guest appearances by some of the era’s biggest stars, including Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, Diahann Carroll, John Wayne, Bob Hope, Peter Lorre and many more.

MadMen7Mad Men: the Final Season-Part 1

Let’s be perfectly clear on something. This isn’t Mad Men: The Final Season – Part 1. This is Mad Men: Season Seven. Next Season Will be Mad Men: Season Eight. You can’t split a “season” by a year and then call it Parts 1 and 2. It’s just two separate seasons. Simple as that. As for this season in terms of quality, it’s perfectly fine. To be honest, by this time, I’m just a little tired of Mad Men. It’s still a good show, but it doesn’t excite me like it used to. Still, fans will be happy t have the next season in their collection No matter what you call it.

AnnieOakleyAnnie Oakley: The Complete TV Series

Even though Annie Oakley was a real person, this fictional TV show from the 1950s was made up largely of stories created just for the show. Still, for a 1950s western it was groundbreaking in that it had a female lead, and with Gail Davis it found a star. She may not have had a lengthy career afterwards, but Annie Oakley was her signature character, and it’s clear from the special features that the role meant a lot to her. This nice box set includes every episodes from the show’s 1954-1957 run, and the bonus features are really nicely done, too.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD this week:

  • The title of Billy Crystal’s new special, Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays refers to the 700 Sundays he shared with his dad before he died. This isn’t so much a stand-up special as it is a one-man show, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on laughs. There’s also a lot of sentimental and moving moments, making for a well-balanced evening with Billy.
  • This week sees the release of the BBC’s Silent Witness: Season 1 & Season 17. And no, that’s not a typo. This long-running procedural has never been released on DVD, so rather than trying to squeeze out all 17 seasons over an accelerated schedule, the BBC has put out the first season so fans can see where it all began, and also the latest season for fans of the current incarnation. Either way, you’re in for some good mysteries.
  • I’m not sure how Gabriel Iglesias got to be so popular, but he clearly is. The Fluffy Movie – Extended Edition sees the home video release of his theatrical stand-up film, and it’s… solidly not bad. I mean, there are some funny parts, but I don’t think Iglesias is all that funny. Certainly not funny enough to be as huge as he is. But, for fans, this will be a treat.
  • From Inside: Gary Numan is a fascinating animated film that features music by the eclectic Gary Numan. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the film follows a young pregnant woman making her way in a desolated world. The music is a definite part of the film, and it’s got a certain arty flair that will appeal to people who enjoy the esoteric.
  • Peter Stormare stars in Autumn Blood, a dark and unpleasant film about a pair of siblings trying to survive when the oldest is sexually assaulted and then hunted by a trio of brothers. Not only is the subject matter icky, but the film is dreadfully slow and not really worth the running time.
  • Gary Daniels stars in Misfire, an action thriller about a DEA agent and a reporter trying to take down a cartel that’s made things personal. It’s relatively standard fare for direct-to-video action, but I’ve seen much worse. It’s an engaging enough way to kill 90 minutes.
  • In this spin-off of the hit Hot in Cleveland, Cedric the Entertainer plays a Las Vegas singer who returns to his hometown to become a preacher. Sure, why not? The Soul Man: Season 2 also stars Niecy Nash (Reno 911) and has some laughs to be found, even if it’s not a slam dunk.
  • Apparently, the world needed a TLC biopic, and so VH1 has provided one. CrazySexyCool follows the hit pop group from inception to more current years, including the death of founding member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. It’s not a bad movie, by any stretch, but it’s obviously going to appeal more to people who are fans of the group.
  • Ugh. This show. Duck Dynasty: Seasons 4-6 is the next collection of the hugely popular show. I am running out of things to say about a show I just don’t care that much about. Duck Dynasty is predictable, typical reality TV fare that seems more and more scripted and calculated with every episode. Reality show, or vigorously engineered cash cow? I think the latter.
  • Korean films are all about scope and scale, and Kundo has both in spades. Yet another period action epic, this one focuses on a group of bandits who rise up against tyrants and basically pull a Robin Hood; stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Good if you like this kind of thing.
  • The budget-priced Film Noir Collection comes in a collectible metal tin and includes ten classic noir films, some more well-known than others. With talent like Fritz Lang, Orson Welles and John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, and Beverly Garland, there are some gems in here. The films included are: DOABeat The DevilImpactThe StrangerScarlet StreetShockPort of New YorkThey Made Me A CriminalWhirlpool, and Quicksand.
  • Similar to the Noir Collection, The John Wayne Collection includes five films in a collectible tin case. The usual mix ensues, including McLintockThe Desert TrailAngel and the BadmanParadise Canyon, and Rainbow Valley. For the budget price, you can’t really beat this one if you’re a John Wayne fan.
  • The German film Coffee in Berlin follows a day in the life of a drifting, disaffected young man on the streets of Berlin. It ‘s very reminiscent of new wave French cinema and should appeal to arthouse film fans quite a bit.
  • Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is a new anime film  based on a popular video game. Not familiar with the game personally, the story leaves a little to be desired, but the animation is gorgeous and the action is ferocious. Anime fans will dig it.
  • Nova: Rise of the Hackers is a new documentary secial from PBS that looks at the dangers of computer hackers. It’s very informative, and it will also make you very, VERY paranoid. Back up your computers, people!!
  • The Last Sentence is a Swedish film based on the life of crusading journalist Torgny Segerstedt, editor-in-chief of one of Sweden s leading newspapers, and his battle against Hitler and the Nazis. Sobering stuff, but moving stuff.
  • Another week, another found footage horror film. The Inside follows a guy who discovers a video tape that reveals bad things happening to a group of teenagers and sets out to track down where it occurred. Of course, because why wouldn’t you? The film is pretty terrible, though, despite an okay concept.
  • Early 20th century photographer Dorothea Lange grabs the spotlight in Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Her granddaughter directs and narrates this biography to give us a closer look at the woman behind the photographs.
  • Jean Reno stars in Le Chef, A French comedy that would make a good palate cleanser before watching The 100 Foot Journey, which is a superior film. This one goes for broad comedy and succeeds at times, giving us a film that is fun but lightweight.
  • It’s no surprise that a movie called Sexina is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. What is surprising is that it found distribution. Despite the presence of Adam West in a small role and music by the late Davy Jones of The Monkees, the budget on this film looks to be about 25¢. And it’s just dreadful. Really, it’s not even worth watching to make fun of.